Alexander cuts Gordion's knot

After the Battle of Granicus, the Persians fled inland. In about a year Alexander conquered most of western Asia Minor and the Aegean Greek cities of Ephesus, Halicarnassus, Magnesia, Perge and Side, where he was greeted as a liberator. At Gordium (near Ankara), the ancient court of King Midas, Alexander "solved" the famous puzzle of the Gordium's knot by severing it with blow from his sword. According to legend whoever undid the intricately twisted knot would become the ruler of Asia. As Alexander's army moved eastward they were just buying their time until they would face off again against the Persians in larger, more pivotal battles. ↔

Plutarch wrote: “This battle presently made a great change of affairs to Alexander's advantage. For Sardis itself, the chief seat of the barbarian's power in the maritime provinces, and many other considerable places, were surrendered to him; only Halicarnassus and Miletus stood out, which he took by force, together with the territory about them. After which he was a little unsettled in his opinion how to proceed. Sometimes he thought it best to find out Darius as soon as he could, and put all to the hazard of a battle; another while he looked upon it as a more prudent course to make an entire reduction of the sea-coast, and not to seek the enemy till he had first exercised his power here and made himself secure of the resources of these provinces. While he was thus deliberating what to do, it happened that a spring of water near the city of Xanthus in Lycia, of its own accord, swelled over its banks, and threw up a copper plate, upon the margin of which was engraven in ancient characters, that the time would come when the Persian empire should be destroyed by the Grecians. [Source: Plutarch (A.D. 45-127), “Life of Alexander”, A.D. 75 translated by John Dryden, 1906, MIT, Online Library of Liberty, ]

“Encouraged by this accident, he proceeded to reduce the maritime parts of Cilicia and Phoenicia, and passed his army along the sea-coasts of Pamphylia with such expedition that many historians have described and extolled it with that height of admiration, as if it were no less than a miracle, and an extraordinary effect of divine favour, that the waves which usually come rolling in violently from the main, and hardly ever leave so much as a narrow beach under the steep, broken cliffs at any time uncovered, should on a sudden retire to afford him passage. Menander, in one of his comedies, alludes to this marvel when he says:
"Was Alexander ever favoured more?
Each man I wish for meets me at my door,
And should I ask for passage through the sea,
The sea I doubt not would retire for me."

“But Alexander himself in his epistles mentions nothing unusual in this at all, but says he went from Phaselis, and passed through what they call the Ladders. At Phaselis he stayed some time, and finding the statue of Theodectes, who was a native of this town and was now dead, erected in the market-place, after he had supped, having drunk pretty plentifully, he went and danced about it, and crowned it with garlands, honouring not ungracefully, in his sport, the memory of a philosopher whose conversation he had formerly enjoyed when he was Aristotle's scholar.

“Then he subdued the Pisidians who made head against him, and conquered the Phrygians, at whose chief city, Gordium, which is said to be the seat of the ancient Midas, he saw the famous chariot fastened with cords made of the rind of the cornel-tree, which whosoever should untie, the inhabitants had a tradition, that for him was reserved the empire of the world. Most authors tell the story that Alexander finding himself unable to untie the knot, the ends of which were secretly twisted round and folded up within it, cut it asunder with his sword. But Aristobulus tells us it was easy for him to undo it, by only pulling the pin out of the pole, to which the yoke was tied, and afterwards drawing off the yoke itself from below. From hence he advanced into Paphlagonia and Cappadocia, both which countries he soon reduced to obedience, and then hearing of the death of Memnon, the best commander Darius had upon the sea-coasts, who, if he had lived, might, it was supposed, have put many impediments and difficulties in the way of the progress of his arms, he was the rather encouraged to carry the war into the upper provinces of Asia.”

Websites on Ancient Greece: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Greece ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Hellenistic World ; BBC Ancient Greeks; Canadian Museum of History; Perseus Project - Tufts University; ; ;; British Museum; Illustrated Greek History, Dr. Janice Siegel, Department of Classics, Hampden–Sydney College, Virginia ; The Greeks: Crucible of Civilization ; Oxford Classical Art Research Center: The Beazley Archive ;; Metropolitan Museum of Art; The Ancient City of Athens; The Internet Classics Archive ; Cambridge Classics External Gateway to Humanities Resources; Ancient Greek Sites on the Web from Medea ; Greek History Course from Reed; Classics FAQ MIT; 11th Brittanica: History of Ancient Greece ;Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy;Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Alexander in Sardis and Ephesus

Muslim-Mongol legend of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus discovered by Alexander

Arrian wrote: “Having appointed Calas to the post of viceroy of the territory which had been under the rule of Arsites, and having commanded the inhabitants to pay to him the same tribute which they had paid to Darius, he ordered as many of the natives as came down from the mountains and surrendered to him to depart to their several abodes. He also acquitted the people of Zeleia of blame, because he knew they had been compelled to assist the Persians in the war. He then despatched Parmenio to occupy Dascylium, which he easily performed; for the garrison evacuated it. He himself advanced towards Sardis; and when he was about stades distant from that city, he was met by Mithrines, the commandant of the garrison in the Acropolis, accompanied by the most influential of the citizens of Sardis. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

“The latter surrendered the city into his hands, and Mithrines the fortress and the money laid up in it. Alexander encamped near the river Hermus, which is about twenty stades distant from Sardis; but he sent Amyntas, son of Andromenes, to occupy the citadel of Sardis. He took Mithrines with him, treating him with honour; and granted the Sardians and other Lydians the privilege of enjoying the ancient laws of Lydia, and permitted them to be free. He then ascended into the citadel, which was garrisoned by the Persians. And the position seemed to him a strong one; for it was very lofty, precipitous on every side, and fenced round by a triple wall. He therefore resolved to build a temple to the Olympian Zeus on the hill, and to erect an altar in it; but while he was considering which part of the hill was the most suitable site, suddenly a winter storm arose, though it was the summer season, loud claps of thunder were heard, and rain fell on the spot where the palace of the kings of Lydia had stood. From this Alexander thought that the deity had revealed to him where the temple to Zeus ought to be built; and he gave orders accordingly. He left Pausanias, one of the Companions, to be superintendent of the citadel of Sardis, Nicias to supervise the collection of the tribute and taxes, and Asander, son of Philotas, to be superintendent of Lydia and the rest of the dominion of Spithridates, giving him as large a number of cavalry and light-armed infantry as seemed sufficient for present emergencies. He also sent Calas and Alexander, son of Aëropus, into the country of Memnon, in command of the Peloponnesians and most of the other Grecian allies, except the Argives, who had been left behind to guard the citadel of Sardis.

“Meantime, when the news of the cavalry battle was spread abroad, the Grecian mercenaries who formed the garrison of Ephesus, seized two of the Ephesian triremes and set off in flight. They were accompanied by Amyntas, son of Antiochus, who had fled from Alexander out of Macedonia, not because he had received any injury from the king, but from ill-will to him, and thinking it not unlikely that he should suffer some ill-treatment from him (on account of his disloyalty). On the fourth day Alexander arrived at Ephesus, where he recalled from exile all the men who had been banished from the city on account of their adherence to him; and having broken up the oligarchy, he established a democratical form of government there. He also ordered the Ephesians to contribute to Artemis all the tribute which they were in the habit of paying to the Persians. When the people of Ephesus were relieved of their dread of the oligarchs, they rushed headlong to kill the men who had brought Memnon into the city, as also those who had pillaged the temple of Artemis, and those who had thrown down the statue of Philip which was in the temple, and those who had dug up and carried off from the tomb in the market place the bones of Heropythus, the liberator of their city. They also led Syrphax, and his son Pelagon, and the sons of Syrphax’s brothers out of the temple and stoned them to death. But Alexander prevented them making any further quest of the rest of the oligarchs for the purpose of wreaking their vengeance upon them; for he knew that if the people were not checked, they would kill the innocent along with the guilty, some from hatred, and others for the sake of seizing their property. At this time Alexander gained great popularity both by his general course of action and especially by what he did at Ephesus.”

Alexander Marches to Miletus and Occupies the Island of Lade

Alexander's route in Asia Minor

Arrian wrote: “Men now came to him both from Magnesia and Tralles, offering to surrender those cities; and to them he sent Parmenio, giving him , infantry from the Grecian auxiliaries, an equal number of Macedonians, and about of the Cavalry Companions. He also sent Lysimachus, son of Agathocles, with an equal force to the Aeolic cities, and to as many of the Ionic cities as were still under the Persians. He was ordered to break up the oligarchies everywhere, to set up the democratical form of government, to restore their own laws to each of the cities, and to remit the tribute which they were accustomed to pay to the foreigners. But Alexander himself remained behind at Ephesus, where he offered a sacrifice to Artemis and conducted a procession in her honour with the whole of his army fully armed and marshalled for battle. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

“On the following day he took the rest of his infantry, the archers, the Agrianians, the Thracian cavalry, the royal squadron of the Companions, and three other squadrons in addition, and set out for Miletus. At his first assault he captured that which was called the outer city; for the garrison had evacuated it. There he encamped and resolved to blockade the inner city; for Hegesistratus, to whom the king Darius had entrusted the command of the garrison in Miletus, kept on sending letters before this to Alexander, offering to surrender Miletus to him. But then, having regained his courage from the fact that the Persian fleet was not far off, he made up his mind to preserve the city for Darius. But Nicanor, the commander of the Grecian fleet, anticipated the Persians by sailing into the port of Miletus three days before they approached; and with ships he anchored at the island of Lade, which lies near Miletus. The Persian ships arriving too late, and the admirals discovering that Nicanor had occupied the anchorage at Lade before them, they took moorings near Mount Mycale. Alexander had forestalled them in seizing the island, not only by mooring his ships near it, but also by transporting into it the Thracians and about , of the other auxiliary troops. The ships of the foreigners were about in number.

“Notwithstanding the superiority of the Persian fleet, Parmenio advised Alexander to fight a sea-battle, expecting that the Greeks would be victorious with their fleet both for other reasons and especially because an omen from the deity made him confident of the result; for an eagle had been seen sitting upon the shore, opposite the sterns of Alexander’s ships. He also urged that if they won the battle, they would reap a great advantage from it in regard to their main object in the war; and if they were beaten, their defeat would not be of any great moment; for even as it was, the Persians held the sovereignty of the sea. He added that he was willing to go on board the fleet himself and to share the danger. However, Alexander replied that Parmenio was mistaken in his judgment, and did not explain the sign according to probability. For it would be rash for him with a few ships to fight a battle against a fleet far more numerous than his own, and with his unpractised naval force to contend against the disciplined fleet of the Cyprians and Phoenicians. Besides, he did not wish to deliver over to the foreigners on so unstable an element the advantage which the Macedonians derived from their skill and courage; and if they were beaten in the sea-battle, their defeat would be no small hindrance to their final success in the war, both for other reasons, and especially because the Greeks, being animated with courage at the news of his naval defeat, would attempt to effect a revolution. Taking all these things into consideration, he declared that he did not think that it was a suitable time for fighting a sea-battle; and for his part, he expounded the divine omen in a different way. He admitted that the eagle was in his favour; but as it was seen sitting on the land, it seemed to him rather to be a sign that he should get the mastery over the Persian fleet by defeating their army on land.”

Siege and Capture of Miletus

Capture of Miletus

Arrian wrote: “At this time Glaucippus, one of the most notable men in Miletus, was sent out to Alexander by the people and the Grecian mercenaries, to whom rather than to the citizens the town had been entrusted, to tell him that the Milesians were willing to make their walls and harbours free to him and the Persians in common; and on these terms to demand that he should raise the siege. But Alexander ordered Glaucippus to depart without delay into the city, and tell the citizens to prepare for a battle at daybreak. He then stationed his military engines near the wall, and having in a short time partly broken and partly shaken down a large piece of it, he led his army near, that the men might enter wherever the wall had been thrown down or shaken. The Persians from Mycale were following close upon them and could almost see their friends and allies being besieged. In the meantime, Nicanor, observing from Lade Alexander’s commencement of the attack, began to sail into the harbour of Miletus, rowing along the shore; and mooring his triremes as close as possible together, with their prows facing the enemy, across the narrowest part of the mouth of the harbour, he shut off the Persian fleet from the port and made it impossible for the Persians to give succour to the Milesians. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

“Then the Macedonians from all sides pressed close upon the citizens and the Grecian mercenaries, who took to flight; some of them, casting themselves into the sea, floated along upon their shields with the hollow upwards to an unnamed islet which lies near the city; others getting into their skiffs and hastening to get the start of the Macedonian triremes, were captured by them at the mouth of the harbour. But the majority of them were slain in the city itself. As soon as Alexander had got possession of the city, he sailed against those who had fled for refuge into the island; ordering the men to carry ladders upon the prows of the triremes, with the intention of effecting a landing along the cliffs of the island, as one would mount a wall. But when he saw that the men on the island were resolved to run every risk, he was moved with pity for them, because they appeared to him both brave and loyal; wherefore he made a truce with them on the condition that they would serve as his soldiers. These Grecian mercenaries were about in number. He likewise pardoned all the citizens of Miletus who had escaped death in the capture of the city, and he granted them their freedom.

“The foreigners used to start from Mycale every day and sail up to the Grecian fleet, hoping to induce them to accept the challenge and come forth to a battle; but during the night they used to moor their vessels near Mycale, which was an inconvenient station, because they were under the necessity of fetching water from the mouth of the river Maeander, a great way off. Alexander guarded the harbour of Miletus with his ships, in order to prevent the foreigners from forcing an entrance; and at the same time he sent Philotas to Mycale in command of the cavalry and three regiments of infantry, with instructions to prevent the men in the ships from landing. Accordingly, they, being through the scarcity of fresh water and of the other necessaries of life as good as besieged in their ships, sailed away to Samos; where furnishing themselves with food, they sailed back again to Miletus. They then drew up most of their ships in front of the harbour on the deep sea, with the hope that they might in some way or other induce the Macedonians to come out into the open sea. Five of their ships sailed into the roadstead which lay between the island of Lade and the camp, expecting to surprise Alexander’s ships while empty of their crews; for they had ascertained that the sailors for the most part were dispersed from the ships, some to gather fuel, others to collect provisions, and others being arranged in foraging parties. And indeed it happened that a number of the sailors were absent; but as soon as Alexander observed the five Persian ships sailing towards him, he manned ten ships with the sailors who happened to be at hand, and sent them with all speed against them with orders to attack prow to prow. No sooner did the men in the five Persian ships see the Macedonians bearing up against them, contrary to their expectation, than they immediately tacked about, though far off, and fled to the rest of their fleet. However, the ship of the Iassians, not being a fast sailer, was captured in the flight, men and all; but the other four succeeded in escaping to their own triremes. After this the Persians sailed away from Miletus without effecting anything.”

Siege of Halicarnassus: Abortive Attack on Myndus

Arrian wrote: “Alexander now resolved to disband his fleet, partly from lack of money at the time, and partly because he saw that his own fleet was not a match in battle for that of the Persians. On this account he was unwilling to run the risk of losing even a part of his armament. Besides, he considered, that now he was occupying Asia with his land force, he would no longer be in need of a fleet; and that he would be able to break up that of the Persians, if he captured the maritime cities; since they would neither have any ports from which they could recruit their crews, nor any harbour in Asia to which they could bring their ships. Thus he explained the omen of the eagle to signify that he should get the mastery over the enemy’s ships by his land force. After doing this, be set forth into Caria, because it was reported that a considerable force, both of foreigners and of Grecian auxiliaries, had collected in Halicarnassus. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the World

“Having taken all the cities between Miletus and Halicarnassus as soon as he approached them, he encamped near the latter city, at a distance from it of about five stades, as if he expected a long siege. For the natural position of the place made it strong; and wherever there seemed to be any deficiency in security, it had been entirely supplied long before by Memnon, who was there in person, having now been proclaimed by Darius governor of lower Asia and commander of the entire fleet. Many Grecian mercenary soldiers had been left in the city, as well as many Persian troops; the triremes also were moored in the harbour, so that the sailors might render him valuable aid in the operations. On the first day of the siege, while Alexander was leading his men up to the wall in the direction of the gate leading towards Mylasa, the men in the city made a sortie, and a skirmish took place; but Alexander’s men making a rush upon them repulsed them with ease, and shut them up in the city. A few days after this, the king took the shield-bearing guards, the Cavalry Companions, the infantry regiments of Amyntas, Perdiccas and Meleager, and in addition to these the archers and Agrianians, and went round to the part of the city which is in the direction of Myndus, both for the purpose of inspecting the wall, to see if it happened to be more easy to be assaulted there than elsewhere; and at the same time to see if he could get hold of Myndus by a sudden and secret attack. For he thought that if Myndus were his own, it would be no small help in the siege of Halicarnassus; moreover, an offer to surrender had been made by the Myndians if he would approach the town secretly, under the cover of night. About midnight, therefore, he approached the wall, according to the plan agreed on; but as no sign of surrender was made by the men within, and though he had with him no military engines or ladders, inasmuch as he had not set out to besiege the town, but to receive it on surrender, he nevertheless led the Macedonian phalanx near and ordered them to undermine the wall. They threw down one of the towers, which, however, in its fall did not make a breach in the wall. But the men in the city stoutly defending themselves, and at the same time many from Halicarnassus having already come to their aid by sea, made it impossible for Alexander to capture Myndus by surprise or sudden assault. Wherefore he returned without accomplishing any of the plans for which he had set out, and devoted himself once more to the siege of Halicarnassus.

“In the first place he filled up with earth the ditch which the enemy had dug in front of the city, about thirty cubits wide and fifteen deep; so that it might be easy to bring forward the towers, from which he intended to discharge missiles against the defenders of the wall; and that he might bring up the other engines with which he was planning to batter the wall down. He easily filled up the ditch, and the towers were then brought forward. But the men in Halicarnassus made a sally by night with the design of setting fire both to the towers and the other engines which had been brought up to the wall, or were nearly brought up to it. They were, however, easily repelled and shut up again within the walls by the Macedonians who were guarding the engines, and by others who were aroused by the noise of the struggle and who came to their aid. Neoptolemus, the brother of Arrhabaeus, son of Amyntas, one of those who had deserted to Darius, was killed, with about others of the enemy. Of Alexander’s soldiers sixteen were killed and wounded; for the sally being made in the night, they were less able to guard themselves from being wounded.”

Siege of Halicarnassus

Arrian wrote: “A few days after this, two Macedonian hoplites of the brigade of Perdiccas, living in the same tent and being messmates, happened in the course of conversation each to be extolling himself and his own exploits. Hence a quarrel arose between them as to which of them was the braver, and, being somewhat inflamed with wine, they agreed to arm themselves, and of their own accord go and assault the wall facing the citadel, which for the most part was turned towards Mylasa. This they did rather to make a display of their own valour than to engage in a dangerous conflict with the enemy. Some of the men in the city, however, perceiving that there were only two of them, and that they were approaching the wall inconsiderately, rushed out upon them; but they slew those who came near, and hurled darts at those who stood at a distance. At last, however, they were overmatched both by the number of their assailants and the disadvantage of their own position; for the enemy made the attack upon them, and threw darts at them from a higher level. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

“Meanwhile some other men from the brigade of Perdiccas, and others from Halicarnassus, rushed out against each other; and a sharp contest ensued near the wall. Those who had made the sally from the city were driven back, and again shut up within the gates by the Macedonians. The city also narrowly escaped capture; for the walls at that time were not under strict guard, and two towers, with the whole intermediate space, having already fallen to the ground, would have offered an easy entrance within the wall to the army, if the whole of it had undertaken the task. The third tower, which had been thoroughly shaken, would likewise have been easily thrown down if it had been undermined; but the enemy easily succeeded in building inside a crescent-shaped brick wall to take the place of the one which had fallen. This they were able to do so quickly because of the multitude of hands at their disposal. On the following day Alexander brought his engines up to this wall also; and the men in the city made another sally to set them on fire. A part of the wicker-work shed near the wall and a piece of one of the wooden towers were burnt, but the rest were protected by Philotas and Hellanicus, to whom the charge of them had been committed. But as soon as those who were making the sally saw Alexander, the men who had come out to render aid by holding torches threw them away, and the majority of them cast away their arms and fled within the walls of the city. Then at first they had the advantage from the nature of their position, which was commanding on account of its height; for not only did they cast missiles right in front against the men who were guarding the engines, but also from the towers which alone had been left standing at each end of the battered-down wall, they were able to cast them against the sides, and almost against the backs, of those who were assaulting the wall which had just been built in place of the ruined one.”

another take on the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus

“A few days after this, when Alexander again brought his military engines up to the inner brick wall, and was himself superintending the work, a sortie in mass was made from the city, some advancing by the breach in the wall, where Alexander himself was posted, others by the triple gate, where the Macedonians did not at all expect them. The first party cast torches and other combustibles at the engines, in order to set them on fire and to defy the engineers excessively. But when the men around Alexander attacked them vigorously, hurling great stones with the engines from the towers, and launching darts at them, they were easily put to rout and fled into the city; and as a great number of them had sallied forth and great audacity had been exhibited in the fight, no small slaughter of them took place. For some of them were slain fighting hand-to-hand with the Macedonians, others were killed near the ruins of the wall, because the breach was too narrow for such a multitude to pass through, and the fragments of the wall made it difficult for them to scale it.

“The second party, which sallied forth by the triple gate, was met by Ptolemy, one of the royal body-guards, who had with him the regiments of Addaeus and Timander and some of the light-armed troops. These soldiers by themselves easily put the men of the city to rout; but as the latter in their retreat were fleeing over a narrow bridge which had been made over the ditch, they had the misfortune to break it down by the weight of their multitude. Many of them fell into the ditch, some of whom were trampled to death by their own comrades, and others were killed by the Macedonian weapons from above. A very great slaughter was also made at the very gates, because they were shut before the proper time in a state of panic. For the enemy, being afraid that the Macedonians, who were close upon the fugitives, would rush in with them, shut many of their friends out, who were slain by the Macedonians near the very walls. The city narrowly escaped capture; indeed it would have been taken, had not Alexander called back his army, to see if some friendly sign of surrender would be made by the Halicarnassians; for he was still desirous of saving their city. Of the men in the city about one thousand were slain; and of Alexander’s men about forty, among whom were Ptolemy, one of the king’s body-guards, Clearchus, a captain of the archers, Addaeus, who had the command of a thousand infantry, and other Macedonians of no mean position.”

Destruction of Halicarnassus

Arrian wrote: “Then Orontobates and Memnon, the commanders of the Persians, met and decided from the state of affairs that they could not hold out long against the siege, seeing that part of the wall had already fallen down and part had been battered and weakened, and that many of their soldiers had either perished in the sorties or been wounded and disabled. Taking these things into consideration, about the second watch of the night they set fire to the wooden tower which they had themselves built to resist the enemy’s military engines, and to the magazines in which their weapons were stored. They also cast fire into the houses near the wall; and others were burned by the flames, which were carried with great fury from the magazines and the tower by the wind bearing in that direction. Some of the enemy then withdrew to the stronghold in the island (called Arconnesus), and others to another fortress called Salmacis. When this was reported to Alexander by some deserters from the incendiaries, and he himself could see the raging fire, though the occurrence took place about midnight, yet he led out the Macedonians and slew those who were still engaged in setting fire to the city. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

“But he issued orders to preserve all the Halicarnassians who should be taken in their houses. As soon as the daylight appeared he could discern the strongholds which the Persians and the Grecian mercenaries had occupied; but he decided not to besiege them, considering that he would meet with no small delay beleaguering them, from the nature of their position, and moreover thinking that they would be of little importance to him now that he had captured the whole city.

“Wherefore, burying the dead in the night, he ordered the men who had been placed in charge of the military engines to convey them to Tralles. He himself marched into Phrygia, after razing the city to the ground, and leaving , Grecian infantry and cavalry as a guard both of this place and of the rest of Caria, under the command of Ptolemy. He appointed Ada to act as his viceroy of the whole of Caria. This queen was daughter of Hecatomnus and wife of Hidrieus, who, though he was her brother, lived with her in wedlock, according to the custom of the Carians. When Hidrieus was dying, he confided the administration of affairs to her, for it had been a custom in Asia, ever since the time of Semiramis, even for women to rule men. But Pixodarus expelled her from the rule, and seized the administration of affairs himself. On the death of Pixodarus, his son-in-law Orontobates was sent by the king of the Persians to rule over the Carians. Ada retained Alinda alone, the strongest place in Caria; and when Alexander invaded Caria she went to meet him, offering to surrender Alinda to him, and adopting him as her son. Alexander confided Alinda to her, and did not think the title of son unworthy of his acceptance; moreover, when he had captured Halicarnassus and become master of the rest of Caria, he granted her the privilege of ruling over the whole country.”

Alexander in Lycia and Pamphylia

Lycian rock tombs

Arrian wrote: “Some of the Macedonians who served in Alexander’s army had married just before he undertook the expedition. He thought that he ought not to treat these men with neglect, and therefore sent them back from Caria to spend the winter in Macedonia with their wives. He placed them under the command of Ptolemy, son of Seleucus, one of the royal body-guards, and of the two generals Coenus, son of Polemocrates, and Meleager, son of Neoptolemus, because they were also newly married. He gave these officers instructions to levy as many horse and foot soldiers as they could from the country, when they returned to him and brought back the men who had been sent away with them. By this act more than by any other Alexander acquired popularity among the Macedonians. He also sent Cleander, son of Polemocrates, to levy soldiers in Peloponnesus, and Parmenio to Sardis, giving him the command of a regiment of the Cavalry Companions, the Thessalian cavalry, and the rest of the Grecian allies. He ordered him to take the wagons to Sardis and to advance from that place into Phrygia. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

“He himself marched towards Lycia and Pamphylia, in order to gain command of the coastland, and by that means render the enemy’s fleet useless. The first place on his route was Hyparna, a strong position, having a garrison of Grecian mercenaries; but he took it at the first assault, and allowed the Greeks to depart from the citadel under a truce. Then he invaded Lycia and brought over the Telmissians by capitulation; and crossing the river Xanthus, the cities of Pinara, Xanthus, Patara, and about thirty other smaller towns were surrendered to him. Having accomplished this, though it was now the very depth of winter, he invaded the land called Milyas, which is a part of Great Phrygia, but at that time paid tribute to Lycia, according to an arrangement made by the Great King. Hither came envoys from the Phaselites, to treat for his friendship, and to crown him with a golden crown; and the majority of the maritime Lycians also sent heralds to him as ambassadors to treat for the same object. He ordered the Phaselites and Lycians to surrender their cities to those who were despatched by him to receive them; and they were all surrendered. He soon afterwards arrived himself at Phaselis, and helped the men of that city to capture a strong fort which had been constructed by the Pisidians to overawe the country; and sallying forth from which those barbarians used to inflict much damage upon the Phaselites who tilled the land.”

Alexander in Pamphylia, Aspendus and Side

Arrian wrote: “Alexander then, moving from Phaselis, sent part of his army to Perga through the mountains, where the Thracians had levelled a road for him by a route which was otherwise difficult and long. But he himself led his own brigade by the beach along the sea, where there is no route, except when the north wind blows. But if the south wind prevails it is impossible to journey along the beach. At that time, after a strong south wind, the north winds blew, and rendered his passage easy and quick, not without the divine intervention, as both he and his men interpreted. As he was advancing from Perga, he was met on the road by envoys from the Aspendians with full powers, who offered to surrender their city, but begged him not lead a garrison into it. Having gained their request in regard to the garrison, they went back; but he ordered them to give him fifty talents as pay for his army, as well as the horses which they were rearing as tribute to Darius. Having agreed with him about the money, and having likewise promised to hand over the horses, they departed. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

“Alexander then marched to Sidē, the inhabitants of which were Cymaeans from Cyme, in Aeolis. These people give the following account of themselves, saying that their ancestors starting from Cyme, arrived in that country, and disembarked to found a settlement. They immediately forgot the Grecian language, and forthwith began to utter a foreign speech, not, indeed, that of the neighbouring barbarians, but a speech peculiar to themselves, which had never before existed. From that time the Sidetans used to speak a foreign language unlike that of the neighbouring nations. Having left a garrison in Sidē, Alexander advanced to Syllium, a strong place, containing a garrison of Grecian mercenaries as well as of native barbarians themselves. But he was unable to take Syllium offhand by a sudden assault, for he was informed on his march that the Aspendians refused to perform any of their agreements, and would neither deliver the horses to those who were sent to receive them, nor pay the money; but that they had collected their property out of the fields into the city, shut their gates against his men, and were repairing their walls where they had become dilapidated. Hearing this, he marched off to Aspendus.”

Alexander in Phrygia and Pisidia

Alexander and 30 others in Pisidia and Phrygia (a Roman-era Christain story)

Arrian wrote: “The greater part of Aspendus had been built upon a strong and precipitous rock, at the very foot of which flows the river Eurymedon; but round the rock, on the low ground, were many of the citizens’ houses, surrounded by a small wall. As soon as they ascertained that Alexander was approaching, the inhabitants deserted the wall and the houses situated on the low ground, which they thought they were unable to protect; and they fled in a body to the rock. When he arrived with his forces, he passed within the deserted wall and took up his quarters in the houses which had been abandoned by the Aspendians. When these saw that Alexander himself had come, contrary to their expectation, and that his camp was encircling them on all sides, they sent envoys to him, entreating him to form an agreement with them on the former terms. Alexander, considering the strength of the place, and how unprepared he was to undertake a long siege, entered into an agreement with them, though not on the same terms as before. For he ordered them to give him their most influential men as hostages, to hand over the horses which they had formerly agreed to give him, to pay talents instead of fifty, to obey the viceroy appointed by him, and to pay an annual tribute to the Macedonians. Moreover he directed an inquiry to be held about the land which they were accused of holding by force, though it belonged of right to their neighbours. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

“When all these concessions had been made to him, he marched away to Perga, and thence set out for Phrygia, his route leading him past the city of Termessus. The people of this city are foreigners, of the Pisidian race, inhabiting a very lofty place, precipitous on every side; so that the road to the city is a difficult one. For a mountain stretches from the city as far as the road, where it suddenly stops short; and over against it rises another mountain, no less precipitous. These mountains form gates, as it were, upon the road; and it is possible for those who occupy these eminences even with a small guard to render the passage impracticable. On this occasion the Termissians had come out in a body, and were occupying both the mountains; seeing which, Alexander ordered the Macedonians to encamp there, armed as they were, imagining that the Termissians would not remain in a body when they saw them bivouacking, but that most of them would withdraw into their city, which was near, leaving upon the mountains only sufficient men to form a guard. And it turned out just as he conjectured; for most of them retired, and only a guard remained. He forthwith took the archers, the regiments of javelin-throwers, and the lighter hoplites, and led them against those who were guarding the pass. When these were attacked with missiles, they did not stand their ground, but abandoned the position. Alexander then passed through the defile, and encamped near the city.”

Operations in Pisidia


Arrian wrote: “While he was there, ambassadors came to him from the Selgians, who are also Pisidian barbarians, inhabiting a large city, and being warlike. Because they happened to be inveterate enemies to the Termessians they had despatched this embassy to Alexander, to treat for his friendship. He made a treaty with them, and from this time found them faithful allies in all his proceedings. Despairing of being able to capture Termessus without a great loss of time, he marched on to Sagalassus. This was also a large city, inhabited likewise by Pisidians; and though all the Pisidians are warlike, the men of this city were deemed the most so. On this occasion they had occupied the hill in front of the city, because it was no less strong than the walls, from which to attack the enemy; and there they were awaiting him. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

“But Alexander drew up the phalanx of Macedonians in the following way: on the right wing, where he had himself taken up his position, he held the shield-bearing guards, and next to these he extended the foot Companions as far as the left wing, in the order that each of the generals had precedence in the array that day. On the left wing he stationed Amyntas, son of Arrhabaeus, as commander. In front of the right wing were posted the archers and Agrianians, and in front of the left wing the Thracian javelin-throwers under the command of Sitalces. But the cavalry were no use to him in a place so rough and unfavourable.

The Termessians also had come to the aid of the Pisidians, and arrayed themselves with them. Alexander had already made an attack upon the mountain which the Pisidians were occupying, advancing up the most abrupt part of the ascent, when the barbarians from an ambuscade attacked him on both wings, in a place where it was very easy for themselves to advance, but where the route was very difficult for their enemy. The archers, who were the first to approach, were put to rout, inasmuch as they were insufficiently armed; but the Agrianians stood their ground, for the Macedonian phalanx was already drawing near, at the head of which Alexander himself was seen. When the battle became a hand-to-hand one, though the barbarians were destitute of armour, they rushed against the Macedonian hoplites, and fell wounded on all sides. Then, indeed, they gave way, after about of them had been killed. As they were nimble and well-acquainted with the locality, they effected their retreat without difficulty; whereas the Macedonians, on account of the heaviness of their arms and their ignorance of the roads, durst not pursue them vigorously. Alexander therefore held off from the fugitives, and took their city by storm. Of those with him, Cleander, the general of the archers, and about twenty others were slain. Alexander then marched against the rest of the Pisidians, and took some of their strongholds by storm; others he won over to him by granting them terms of capitulation.”

Alexander in Phrygia

Arrian wrote: “Thence he went into Phrygia, passing by the lake called Ascania, in which salt is naturally concreted. The natives use this salt, and do not need the sea at all for this article. On the fifth day of his march, he arrived at Celaenae, in which city there was a fortified rock, precipitous on all sides. This citadel was occupied by the viceroy of Phrygia with a garrison of , Carians and Grecian mercenaries. These men despatched ambassadors to Alexander, promising to surrender the place to him, if succour did not reach them by a day which had been agreed upon with them, naming the day. This arrangement seemed to Alexander more advantageous than to besiege the fortified rock, which was inaccessible on all sides to attack. At Celaenae he left a garrison of , soldiers. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

“Remaining here ten days, he appointed Antigonus, son of Philip, viceroy of Phrygia, placed Balacrus, son of Amyntas as general over the Grecian allies in place of Antigonus, and then directed his march to Gordium. He sent an order to Parmenio to meet him there with the forces under his command; an order which that general obeyed. The newly-married men also, who had been despatched to Macedonia, now arrived at Gordium, and with them another army which had been levied, and put under the command of Ptolemy, son of Seleucus, Coenus, son of Polemocrates, and Meleager, son of Neoptolemus. This army consisted of , Macedonian foot-soldiers and horse-soldiers, Thessalian cavalry, and Eleans under the command of Alcias the Elean.

“Gordium is in the Phrygia which lies near the Hellespont, and is situated upon the river Sangarius, which takes its rise in Phrygia, but, flowing through the land of the Bithynian Thracians, falls into the Euxine Sea. Here an embassy reached Alexander from the Athenians, beseeching him to release to them the Athenian prisoners who had been captured at the river Granicus, fighting for the Persians, and were then in Macedonia serving in chains with the two thousand others captured in that battle. The envoys departed without obtaining their request on behalf of the prisoners for the present. For Alexander did not think it safe, whilst the war against the Persian was still going on, to relax in the slightest degree the terror with which he inspired the Greeks, who did not deem it unbecoming for them to serve as soldiers on behalf of the foreigners against Greece. However, he replied that whenever his present enterprise had been successfully achieved, they might then come as ambassadors to treat on behalf of the same persons.”

Alexander at Gordium

At Gordium (near Ankara), the ancient court of King Midas, Alexander "solved" the famous puzzle of the Gordium's knot by severing it with blow from his sword. According to legend whoever undid the intricately twisted knot would become the ruler of Asia.

Alexander cuts the Gordion Knot

Arrian wrote: “When Alexander arrived at Gordium, he was seized with an ardent desire to go up into the citadel, which contained the palace of Gordius and his son Midas. He was also desirous of seeing the wagon of Gordius and the cord which bound the yoke to the wagon. There was a great deal of talk about this wagon among the neighbouring population. It was said that Gordius was a poor man among the ancient Phrygians, who had a small piece of land to till, and two yoke of oxen. He used one of these in ploughing and the other to draw the wagon. On one occasion, while he was ploughing, an eagle settled upon the yoke, and remained sitting there until the time came for unyoking the oxen. Being alarmed at the sight, he went to the Telmissian soothsayers to consult them about the sign from the deity; for the Telmissians were skilful in interpreting the meaning of Divine manifestations, and the power of divination has been bestowed not only upon the men, but also upon their wives and children from generation to generation. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

“When Gordius was driving his wagon near a certain village of the Telmissians, he met a maiden fetching water from the spring, and to her he related how the sign of the eagle had appeared to him. As she herself was of the prophetic race, she instructed him to return to the very spot and offer sacrifice to Zeus the king. Gordius requested her to accompany him and direct him how to perform the sacrifice. He offered the sacrifice in the way the girl suggested, and afterwards married her. A son was born to them named Midas, who, when he arrived at the age of maturity, was both handsome and valiant. At this time the Phrygians were harassed by civil discord, and consulting the oracle, they were told that a wagon would bring them a king, who would put an end to their discord. While they were still deliberating about this very matter, Midas arrived with his father and mother, and stopped near the assembly with the very wagon in question. They, interpreting the oracular response to refer to him, decided that this was the person whom the god told them the wagon would bring. They therefore appointed Midas king; and he, putting an end to their discord, dedicated his father’s wagon in the citadel as a thank-offering to Zeus the king for sending the eagle. In addition to this the following report was current concerning the wagon, that whosoever could loosen the cord with which the yoke of the wagon was tied, was destined to be the ruler of Asia. The cord was made of cornel bark, and neither end nor beginning to it could be seen. It is said by some that when Alexander could find out no way to loosen the cord and yet was unwilling to allow it to remain unloosened, lest it should exercise some disturbing influence upon the multitude, he struck the cord with his sword and cut it through, saying that it had been untied by him. But Aristobulus says that he pulled out the pin of the wagon-pole, which was a wooden peg driven right through it, holding the cord together. Having done this, he drew out the yoke from the wagon-pole. How Alexander performed the feat in connection with this cord, I cannot affirm with confidence. At any rate both he and his troops departed from the wagon as if the oracular prediction concerning the untying of the cord had been fulfilled. Moreover, that very night, the thunder and lightning were signs from heaven of its fulfilment; and for this reason Alexander offered sacrifice on the following day to the gods who had revealed the signs and assured him that the cord had been untied in a proper way.”

Conquest of Cappadocia and Alexander’s Illness at Tarsus


Arrian wrote: “The next day he sent out to Ancyra in Galatia, where he was met by an embassy from the Paphlagonians, offering to surrender their nation to him and to enter into an alliance with him; but they requested him not to invade their land with his forces. He therefore commanded them to submit to the authority of Calas, the viceroy of Phrygia. Marching thence into Cappadocia, he subjugated all that part of it which lies on this side of the river Halys, and much of that which lies beyond it. Having appointed Sabictas viceroy of Cappadocia, he advanced to the Gates of Cilicia, and when he arrived at the Camp of Cyrus, who (went) with Xenophon, and saw that the Gates were occupied by strong guards, he left Parmenio there with the regiments of infantry which were more heavily armed; and about the first watch, taking the shield-bearing guards, the archers, and the Agrianians, he advanced by night to the Gates, in order to fall upon the guards when they least expected it. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

“However, his advance was not unobserved; but his boldness served him equally well, for the guards, perceiving that Alexander was advancing in person, deserted their post and set off in flight. At dawn next day he passed through the Gates with all his forces and descended into Cilicia. Here he was informed that Arsames had previously intended to preserve Tarsus for the Persians; but when he heard that Alexander had already passed through the Gates, he resolved to abandon the city; and that the Tarsians were therefore afraid he would turn to plunder their city and afterwards evacuate it. Hearing this, Alexander led his cavalry and the lightest of his light infantry to Tarsus with a forced march; consequently Arsames, hearing of his start, fled with speed from Tarsus to King Darius without inflicting any injury upon the city.

“Alexander now fell ill from the toils he had undergone, according to the account of Aristobulus; but other authors say that while he was very hot and in profuse perspiration he leaped into the river Cydnus and swam, being eager to bathe in its water. This river flows through the midst of the city; and as its source is in mount Taurus and it flows through a clean district, it is cold and its water is clear. Alexander therefore was seized with convulsions, accompanied with high fever and continuous sleeplessness. None of the physicians thought he was likely to survive, except Philip, an Acarnanian, a physician in attendance on the king, and very much trusted by him in medical matters, who also enjoyed a great reputation in the army in general affairs. This man wished to administer a purgative draught to Alexander, and the king ordered him to administer it. While Philip was preparing the cup, a letter was given to the king from Parmenio, warning him to beware of Philip; for he heard that the physician had been bribed by Darius to poison Alexander with medicine. But he, having read the letter, and still holding it in his hand, took the cup which contained the medicine and gave Philip the letter to read. While Philip was reading the news from Parmenio, Alexander drank the potion. It was at once evident to the king that the physician was acting honourably in giving the medicine, for he was not alarmed at the letter, but only so much the more exhorted the king to obey all the other prescriptions which he might give, promising that his life would be saved if he obeyed his instructions. Alexander was purged by the draught, and his illness then took a favourable turn. He afterwards proved to Philip that he was a faithful friend to him; and to the rest of those about he proved that he had perfect confidence in his friends by refusing to entertain any suspicion of their fidelity; and at the same time he showed that he could meet death with dauntless courage.”

Alexander Visits the Tomb of Sardanapalus and Fights Against the Cilicians

Sardanapalus, one of the last Assyrian kings

Arrian wrote: “After this he sent Parmenio to the other Gates which separate the land of the Cilicians from that of the Assyrians, in order to capture them before the enemy could do so, and to guard the pass. He gave him the allied infantry, the Grecian mercenaries, the Thracians who were under the command of Sitalces, and the Thessalian cavalry. He afterwards marched from Tarsus, and on the first day arrived at the city of Anchialus. According to report, this city was founded by Sardanapalus the Assyrian; and both from the circumference and from the foundations of the walls it is evident that a large city had been founded and that it had reached a great pitch of power. Also near the wall of Anchialus was the monument of Sardanapalus, upon the top of which stood the statue of that king with the hands joined to each other just as they are joined for clapping. An inscription had been placed upon it in Assyrian characters, which the Assyrians asserted to be in metre. The meaning which the words expressed was this:—“Sardanapalus, son of Anacyndaraxas, built Anchialus and Tarsus in one day; but do thou, O stranger, eat, drink, and play, since all other human things are not worth this!” referring, as in a riddle, to the empty sound which the hands make in clapping. It was also said that the word translated play had been expressed by a more lewd one in the Assyrian language. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884,]

“From Anchialus Alexander went to Soli, into which city he introduced a garrison, and imposed upon the inhabitants a fine of talents of silver, because they were more inclined to favour the Persians than himself. Then, having taken three regiments of Macedonian infantry, all the archers, and the Agrianians, he marched away thence against the Cilicians, who were holding the mountains; and in seven days in all, having expelled some by force, and having brought the rest over by composition, he marched back to Soli. Here he ascertained that Ptolemy and Asander had gained the mastery over Orontobates the Persian who was guarding the citadel of Halicarnassus, and was also holding Myndus, Caunus, Thera, and Callipolis. Cos and Triopium also had been brought into subjection. They wrote to inform him that Orontobates had been worsted in a great battle; that about of his infantry and of his cavalry had been killed, and not less than , taken prisoners. In Soli Alexander offered sacrifice to Asclepius, conducting a procession of the entire army, celebrating a torch race, and superintending a gymnastic and musical contest. He granted the Solians the privilege of a democratical constitution; and then marched away to Tarsus, despatching the cavalry under Philotas to march through the Aleian plain to the river Pyramus. But he himself with the infantry and the royal squadron of cavalry came to Magarsus, where he offered sacrifice to the Magarsian Athena. Thence he marched to Mallus, where he rendered to Amphilochus the sacrificial honours due to a hero. He also arrested those who were creating a sedition among the citizens, and thus put a stop to it. He remitted the tribute which they were paying to King Darius, because the Malliotes were a colony of the Argives, and he himself claimed to have sprung from Argos, being a descendant of Heracles.”

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Greece ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Hellenistic World ; BBC Ancient Greeks ; Canadian Museum of History ; Perseus Project - Tufts University; ; MIT, Online Library of Liberty, ; Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Live Science, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Encyclopædia Britannica, "The Discoverers" [∞] and "The Creators" [μ]" by Daniel Boorstin. "Greek and Roman Life" by Ian Jenkins from the British Museum.Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, World Religions edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); History of Warfare by John Keegan (Vintage Books); History of Art by H.W. Janson Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated October 2018

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